Bar Talk: Gin and tonic with a twist
A gin and tonic.
It’s a classic drink that has been consumed and enjoyed by imbibers for more than a hundred years.
In its purest form, a gin and tonic is simply gin, tonic, lime, and ice.
The cocktail has a slightly tangy taste, almost a bit medicinal thanks to the botanical nature of gin mixed with the bitterness of the tonic water. Of course, the balance between sweet and bitter in the classic drink can vary depending on the gin and tonic water used.
As gin and tonics have stood the test of time and are common in bars everywhere, there are, of course, many variations of a gin and tonic on cocktail lists worldwide, ranging from using flavored tonic to adding different herbs, citrus, or accoutrements to adding in other liquors.
But, with a drink as classic and simple as a G&T, does it really need to be experimented with?
I recently had a gin and tonic variation at Acquolina in Aspen called the Italian Gin & Tonic.
The cocktail is made with Miles Gin, Aperol, sweet vermouth, Fever-Tree Tonic, rosemary, and an orange twist.
This is the first time I’ve encountered Aperol in a G&T, and I suppose the addition of Aperol is what makes this “Italian” and gives the drink a pleasant orange hue.
While I typically enjoy the taste of Aperol, I am questioning adding this bitter aperitif to the mix of a gin and tonic, as the drink already tends to be a bit bitter on its own. The addition of Aperol also seemed to tamper down the bubbliness of the drink as Fever-Tree tonic is delicious but tends to be a lighter bubbly tonic.
Having Aperol in the gin and tonic also made it reminiscent of an Aperol Spritz, which I suppose most drinks that involve the aperitif and some form of sparkling drink — whether that be tonic, soda, or prosecco — tends to give off the spritz vibe.
I appreciated the addition of rosemary to the drink, and, while the flavor the herb gives is very slight, the sprig in the glass was put to best use and released the most flavor when used to stir the cocktail.
The orange twist added another visual element but honestly got a bit lost in the Aperol, which already has an orange flavor.
Instead of an orange twist or even in addition to it, I think it could be nice to add a green olive to the cocktail. While this would push it over into Aperol spritz territory even further — green olives garnish the Venetian spritz — the saltiness of the olive and its brine would have helped cut the sweet and bitter drink, adding a complimentary savory element that it seemed to be slightly lacking.
All light critiques aside, I did in fact drink the entire Italian Gin & Tonic alongside my delicious pasta dish and the cocktail got my brain working on other ways to alter a gin and tonic.
So, back to my original question: Does a drink as classic and simple as a gin and tonic really need to be experimented with?
Yes, I think it’s good to play with the classics.
Creating new variations of old favorites are fun because the drink provides a great base to start with, they are good for getting your creative at-home bartender juices flowing, and, if all your experiments fail, you at least have the makings of a solid drink to fall back on and enjoy.
“Without any exception the worst snow storm known since the advent of the railroad west of Leadville has been raging over the crest of the continental divide since last Thursday,” asserted the Aspen Tribune on January 31, 1899.